Private Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott, died from illness 6th May 1918
Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott, known as Len, was born on 13th May 1884, in Purton, Wiltshire. His mother was Lydia Mary Tucker, and his father was Thomas Eacott, a farm labourer. In 1843 Thomas married Constant Constable, whose remarriage or death I have not yet traced. Thomas and Constant do not appear to have had any children. In 1844 Thomas was sent to Marlborough Bridewell Prison for two months for assaulting Caroline Bedford. In 1848 he was sent there again for 21 days for assaulting Jane Constable at Highworth, who I believe was Constant’s sister. Constant herself was then imprisoned for one month in Devizes prison in January 1849 for stealing turnips in Broad Blunsdon. After a final reference to Constant (and possibly Thomas) in Mangotsfield in 1861 I can find no further record of her. It appears that she did not have any children with Thomas.
Thomas was not free to marry, so understandably there is no record of Thomas and Arthur’s mother Lydia ever marrying, although they were together for about thirteen years. Lydia’s first three children, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, and William John, were all registered with the last name Tucker, but were probably Thomas’s children. Their birth certificates might confirm this. They were followed by Louisa Ann, James Thomas and Henry George. Arthur was their youngest child.
Arthur’s father died in 1888 when Arthur was four years old. The following year, Arthur’s mother married James Ricks, a general labourer, declaring herself a spinster. In 1891 the family were living in Barkfield Cottage, near Purton. On 31st July 1900, age 16, Arthur and his brother George started work at the Great Western Railway as a cleaner in Swindon Station. Although George stayed for nearly a year, Arthur only stayed a few days, leaving on 18th August 1900.
In 1901 Arthur, still age 16, was working as errand boy in Hornsey, Middlesex. He was boarding with William Bridgeman and his wife Emily, nee Hedges. I have not confirmed any relationship between the Bridgemans and Arthur’s parents Lydia and James. William was a navvy born in Dauntsey in about 1851. Emily, who was from Purton, may have been a friend of the Lydia’s, as she was close to her in age.
Arthur enlisted on the 24th August 1904 and joined the 1st Wiltshire Regiment (6995) A Company. George followed him into the 1st Wilts the following year. In 1911 Arthur was a Private serving as a Signaller in South Africa.
When the Great War began Arthur was immediately posted to France, arriving in Rouen on the 14th August 1914. He took part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent fighting retreat, the Battle of Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of La Bassee and Messines, the First Battle of Ypres, the Winter Operations of 1914-15. On May 10th 1915 Arthur was admitted to 76 Field Ambulance (a mobile hospital, not a vehicle) which was attached to the 25th Division. Arthur was diagnosed with disordered heart action, and as there is no record of a later discharge date it is likely that he was immediately sent back to the field. He then took part in the First Attack on Bellewaarde, the Actions of Hooge and the Second Attack on Bellewaarde. Finally he took part in the counter attacks on Vimy Ridge on 21st May 1916. The Battalion was relieved from the line on June 1st 1916 and moved back for a period of rest, reorganisation and training. On 18th June they arrived at Halley Les Pernois.
Arthur was admitted to No.2 Canadian General Hospital at Le Treport on 26th 1916. On July 6th he was noted as dangerously ill. On July 12th 1916 he was diagnosed with pleurisy, an inflamation of the lungs which could be caused by a variety of conditions, including infection, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, cancer, pulmonary embolism, and collagen vascular disease. Arthur was sent home via No.2 General Hospital at Le Havre. He crossed the channel on one of the New Zealand Hospital Ships, Maheno or Marama, which were evacuating men back to England at that time.
Arthur was discharged as medically unfit on 11th October 1916, and was awarded a Silver War Badge. He returned to Wiltshire with an army pension. His mother Lydia Mary died on 9th January 1917. After working as a general labourer, Arthur joined his brother George at Chaddington Farm. George had been discharged wounded in 1915. George and Arthur soon moved on to Padbrook Farm, where Arthur died aged 33 on May 6th 1918. Arthur was buried in Wootton Bassett cemetery on May 10th 1918.
Arthur’s legatees were his brother George, his sister Bessie Dutton, and sister Louisa’s husband Thomas Hyde. Arthur was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914 Star. As his illness was not war related he is not remembered by the CWGC or on any war memorial, despite serving in the 1st Wiltshires for twelve years.
Photographs of Arthur Robert Leonard Eacott with thanks to the Eacott family.